GADGET WATCH: Samsung Galaxy S4

The Samsung Galaxy series of smartphones and tablets has been a big winner for the company. Judged as the ultimate Android alternative to the iPhone, the Galaxy series has finally resulted in a viable alternative to Apple’s popular gadget.

There was plenty of anticipation for the S4 in Australia, and so far sales appear to have been tracking well. But is the phone really a step up from its predecessor, or just more of the same?

Hardware and features

The Samsung Galaxy S4 features a 4.99-inch Super AMOLED screen, with a native resolution of 1920×1080. The device measures 5.38 inches high, and just 0.31 inches thick.

The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.9Ghz processor, and 2GB of RAM. It features up to 32GB of storage, although it can support up to 64GB on a separate microSD card.

The front-facing camera is a two megapixel lens, while the rear lens is 13 megapixels. Both are capable of recording at 1080p.

Connectivity-wise, the phone is capable of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFCE. The Galaxy S4 is also capable of creating a mobile hotspot and tethering to other devices.

What’s the consensus?

Over at Engadget, the publication’s first impression was that the phone’s build material is largely the same as the previous phone’s, with its plastic frame and fake chrome edges. It noted, however, the biggest benefit is that this material is sturdy.

The screen, however, is made of Gorilla Glass 3, and rests below the edge of the screen. This makes the device less vulnerable to cracks.

“This won’t guarantee your screen’s safety when you drop your phone, but it at least increases the likelihood of it surviving an impact at an angle.”

Engadget also noted while the display is larger than the S3, the screen on the S4 is narrower. This means the device loses some of the curves of the previous model.

“Fortunately, this means we finally get to say goodbye to the pebble look and feel: the edges are straighter from top to bottom, giving our fingers more surface to grasp onto, and the back cover fits flat on the faux-chrome edge instead of curving around it like waves of the ocean.”

Unfortunately, Gizmodo had some bad things to say about how the user interface works. In fact, it went so far as to say the interface tech was “obnoxious” when it came to the Android software.

I’m not the biggest fan of any manufacturer-built Android skin to start with, with the least favourite on that list being TouchWiz, but this time, Samsung have come up with a whole new way to annoy you by making you do everything differently, rather than how you know how to do stuff on every other Android operating system. There are more clicks than ever to get basic stuff done.

Which is a shame, because as the publication points out, there are some good ideas – like support for catch-up services and an upgraded Samsung Music Hub.

Performance-wise, however, the S4 is up there with the best. TechCrunch even said the phone performed like “lightning”.

“We ran the GS4 through Quadrant graphics testing, in which it scored just under 12,000. This is quite impressive, considering its competition (such as the HTC Droid DNA and LG Optimus G) barely broke 7,000. However, the HTC One is the real phone to beat when considering the Galaxy S4, as it’s the only phone we’ve seen that beats out the S4.”

Finally, at The Verge the publication said the battery performance is “upper-middle class”, and will last for about a day on average usage.

“I rarely forget to plug my phone in every night, and I don’t mind needing to charge every night, but I’m so used to babysitting my iPhone 5 all day or watching the One’s meter hit red that not having to worry about the GS4 all day was pretty wonderful.”

Who’s it for?

The iPhone has dominated the smartphone scene for so long it’s good to see real alternatives popping up. While the Galaxy S3 was certainly the best Android phone over the past year, the S4 has managed to take the crown.

If you want an Android phone, this is the best device on the market. Save for something like the HTC One, the S4 should be at the top of an Android buyer’s list.


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